Friday, March 31, 2006

Chasing Ambulances; Chasing Skirts

Some things are impossible to caricature.

A California attorney, John Claassen, is suing eHarmony, the online dating service, for refusing to match him up with a date. Mr. Claassen is married, and eHarmony's policies prohibit married persons from becoming members of their site. Mr. Claasen is seeking $12,000 in civil fines.

Mr. Claasen explained, "If I had my druthers, I'd be divorced by now. I'm emotionally in a different state than I am legally." He added, "I just think I've got the right as an individual trying to recover from something that wasn't the high point in my life. If that includes dating now, why can't I?"

Now, that's a sense of entitlement.

Another Example of Why You Shouldn't Want Distant Bureaucrats Making Policy on Minutia

The European Union is banning the building of pipe organs. Read about it here.

Hat Tip: Jay Nordlinger

You May Be Right; I May Be Crazy

The Main Street Journal has a post this morning providing some interesting analysis of the Mary Winkler case. Ms. Winkler is the minister's wife in Selmer, Tennessee who allegedly fired a gunshot into the back of the parson's head recently.

While no one yet knows anything about the motive, the MSJ suggests that her lawyers may be laying the groundwork, at least in the public eye, for an insanity defense. While not much is known about Ms. Winkler's state of mind, overall, insanity defenses have not fared particularly well since John Hinckley used it successfully after shooting President Reagan a quarter of a century ago. Overall, its more restricted acceptance is a good thing.

The foundational rationale of an insanity defense is that the mental state of the defendant is such that he or she no longer understands the difference between right and wrong. Not knowing that difference warrants the judgment that the perpetrator did not knowingly commit a criminal act. However, any time a person seeks to keep secret their actions, by doing so they demonstrate an awareness that what they are doing is wrong. As such, it can be argued that anyone who makes an effort to conceal their actions is not legally insane. Thus, if Ms. Winkler intentionally killed her husband in the bedroom with the gun at a time when she was certain no one would be around, that fact alone would indicate that she was not legally insane.

Criminal defense lawyers don't like such a narrow definition, and by writing this I have probably just guaranteed that I will never be permitted to be on a jury if the attorney in the case wishes to present such a defense.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Corporate Cowardice

Tim Blair points out that some hardy opponents of book banning quickly fall into line when the banners threaten to kill people.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

State Supreme Court Corrects Error on Term Limits

On November 24, 2005, immediately following the state appellate court's decision in the case, I wrote the following regarding Bailey v. Shelby County.

In 1994, over 80% of the voters of Shelby County -- this would be called a landslide -- voted in favor of a 2 term limit for county commissioners and the county mayor. This year, 3 county commissioners soon to be ineligible under that provision showed their voters the ultimate disrespect: they sued them. In response, the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Jackson this week, in the case of Bailey v. Shelby County, in a 2-1 decision has denied the voters their right under the Tennessee Constitution to establish their form of county government.

Article 7, section 1, of the Tennessee Constitution calls for the elections of specified officers for a county government and states that the General Assembly shall establish the qualifications of those officers. That section also permits the General Assembly to allow for alternate forms of county government, if such an alternate form is approved by the voters of that county in a referendum. In response to that, the General Assembly passed a law requiring voters establishing alternate charters to provide for, among other things, the "qualification for holding office."

The court ruled that the people don't have the right to establish those qualifications, and that the General Assembly violated the Constitution by delegating it to them. To the court, it seems, "alternate" means mostly like and dependent on the original.

In his dissent, Judge Frank Crawford argues, "It is somewhat ludicrous to say that the County can have a new form of government, but it is controlled by the old form of government that the new form replaces."

Ludicrous, indeed. Hopefully, the state Supreme Court will hear this case.

I am happy to say that the Supreme Court heard the case and got it right, though it seems to have thrown Knox County for a loop.

An Aphorism for Bloggers

"Never argue with a fool. Someone watching may not be able to tell the difference."

~Author Unknown

Baseball's White Wash

Major League Baseball announced that it will launch an investigation into the use of steroids in the sport. Because MLB did not ban the use of steroids until 2002, the sport is rationalizing that the investigation will only reach back to that point. However, that only means that the investigation will focus on a period of time virtually no one is concerned about. Furthermore, this seems designed to permit baseball to claim to be doing something, when in fact it is only diverting attention from the real scandal.

While it is true that players who abused these drugs prior to 2002 could probably not be punished, that argument misses the point. The real focus of baseball's inquiry should be on its executives: what did they know and when did they know it. Almost everyone believes that MLB owners and leaders knew what was going on and chose to ignore it because larger men hitting longer home runs put more butts in seats. Whether they were aware of the long term physical consequences (someone google the name Lyle Alzado) of steroid abuse is an open question.

Just as Watergate was not merely the story of a few burglars, the MLB steroids scandal is not merely about which players cheated. The real questions relate to who knew about it, and what were they willing to do to keep it out of public view.

The Titans' Quarterback of the Future

The Tennessean reports that Bus Cook, the agent for Titans quarterback Steve McNair, says that the veteran doesn't want to help groom a successor:

"He is a starter. Why would he want to mentor a young guy to take his place? He is not ready for the rocking chair. It doesn't matter if it is Cutler, Leinart, Vince Young or anybody else. It doesn't make sense for Steve McNair to take a huge cut in pay — it wouldn't be this year obviously, but it would be next — to be a mentor for some young guy no matter who it is. It might be great for Tennessee, but it wouldn't be good for Steve.''

Mr. Cook is in the process of renegotiating Mr. McNair's contract, so all of this may just be posturing. However, if Mr. McNair genuinely is not interested in helping prepare his successor, the Titans would be better off letting him go and retaining Billy Volek to start for the next 1-2 seasons while whoever the Titans draft prepares to take the reins.

Mr. McNair has proven himself to be a fierce competitor and a winner, but he is clearly now on the backside of his career.

Emergency Rooms and the Uninsured

Health care guru and blogger Joe Paduda links to a report of a study by the American College of Emergency Physicians that finds that only 15 percent of visitors to emergency rooms are uninsured. This holds true even among those who visit emergency rooms four or more times per year.

This would seem to refute a commonly held belief that the uninsured use emergency rooms more frequently than the general population due to their reliance on these facilities as a last resort for primary care. As such, it may have important implications for current debates on health care policy.

The President is Right on Immigration

Washington Post columnist George Will, who has forcefully criticized President Bush on issues such as federal spending and the Iraq War, says that the President is taking the right stand with regard to immigration:

Today the president is spending more of his depleted political capital by standing to the left of much of his political base, which favors merely preventative and punitive measures regarding immigration. He is right to take his stand there.

In opposition to some on the left, Mr. Will argues in favor of the need to establish control of the nation's borders. However, he also argues against those conservatives advocating punitive measures against the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. He writes:

Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs. Conservatives should favor a policy of encouraging unlimited immigration by educated people with math, engineering, technology or science skills that America's education system is not sufficiently supplying.

And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty." Actually, it would prevent the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France.

Mr. Will -- and the President -- are advocating positions opposed to loud voices on both the left and the right. Those positions are right. Whether they are politically viable remains to be seen.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rotten to the Core

Prior to 1994, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) was the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Republicans have periodically ridiculed Senator Byrd for two different matters: 1)He was once a member of the Klu Klux Klan; and 2) He wielded his power as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee to make himself into West Virginia's most beneficent industry. He moved countless federal jobs and billions of federal dollars into his home state.

Republicans who dislike Senator Byrd's love of pork must account for our own Trent Lott (R-MS), who lost his position as Majority Leader after suggesting that the country would have been better off had segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond been elected President in 1948. Today, Mr. Lott killed an amendment by Republican Tom Coburn and Democrat Barack Obama that would have required the creation of a data base for tracking private recipients of federal funds. Such public disclosure would have a chilling effect on porkbarrell spending projects. According to Mark Tapscott, Mr. Lott killed the amendment by means of a Senate rule that requires amendments to be related to the content of the bill they are amending. Evidently, he did not consider porkbarrell spending to be germane to the bill's concern with political ethics.

Reportedly, after Bill Frist leaves office Mr. Lott would like to return to his old position of Majority Leader. If Republicans put him in that position, they will demonstrate a disdain for what was once a core principle of the party: limited government.

Hat Tip: Ed Morrissey

Tell It to the Judge

Well, actually, tell it to the ethics board. It used to be criminal defendants that resorted to things like the "twinkie defense." Today, however, Seminole County, Florida judge John Sloop told an ethics panel that undiagnosed attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder caused him to order 11 traffic offenders arrested. The 11 had failed to show up at the correct courtroom due to errors in their paperwork, a fact which court employees had made the judge aware of.

Judge Sloop says that he is "horrified" by his actions. The ethics panel may impose penalties ranging from a fine to removal from the bench.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Timely Advice

Hugh Hewitt provides advice to The Washington Post that perhaps would have been appropriate for local Nashville media outlets, as well:

Papers thinking about adding necessary center-right voices to their number should consider asking the center-right for their opinion on the matter.

How Do You Spell that Again?

Blogger Rob Huddleston, who is supporting Ed Bryant's candidacy for Tennessee's open U.S. Senate seat, posted last week a summary of his observations at the Sullivan County Lincoln Day picnic. Nothing about the posting was particularly harsh, though it puts candidate Van Hilleary in a somewhat negative light -- which would seem to be the light that follows Mr. Hilleary like a rain cloud over a cartoon character. Nevertheless, the posting seems to have sent a couple of Hilleary supporters over the edge, judging from a series of oddly belligerant comments they have left on Mr. Huddleston's site and a scurrilous and nasty posting by Charles Badger, an unofficial blogger for Mr. Hilleary who summarizes his thoughts by calling Mr. Huddleston an a**hole.

John Norris Brown suggests that if Mr. Hilleary has integrity he will insist that Mr. Badger apologize, but Mr. Brown doubts that this will occur. Mr. Brown should not be so hasty. We need to give Mr. Hilleary time to look up the word.

Advice for Men

If your wife, girlfriend,significant other, or any other woman within arm's length tells you she is having a bad hair day, do not respond like this.

Hat Tip: Michael Silence

Health Care and Sin Taxes

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredeson announced to the General Assembly yesterday an aggressive state supported "Cover Tennessee" program for providing medical insurance coverage to uninsured persons in the state with incomes up to 250% of the poverty level. Children and pregnant women under that income level will also have opportunities to obtain coverage, as will persons with certain uninsurable conditions. Beneficiaries will be asked to pay premiums. Exactly what will be covered under the program remains unknown. Insurers will be asked to submit bids as to what they would cover for $150/month per enrollee.

At a minimum, it can be stated that this is an improvement over TennCare. For example, beneficiaries are required to make some sort of payment for their coverage based on income, thus creating some personal responsibility for coverage. Furthermore, there are features of this program that would be beneficial if they could be applied in the private sector. Numerous government mandates for coverages to be included in group health insurance take away private insurers' ability to tailor coverages, thus increasing the cost of insurance for everyone. The governor's proposal would be exempt from those mandates. Relieve private insurers of those requirements, and they could provide more affordable coverage without the state's intervention. The governor is also correct when he says that medical insurance coverage should ultimately follow the individual and not be a function of employment.

That is not to say that there are no problems. There is not really anything here that will function to control costs or discourage antiselection (the tendency of sick people to buy insurance and of young, healthy people to decline to do so).

It can be argued that the problem of the uninsured is an exaggerated one. According to the state, 580,000 Tennesseans are uninsured. However, that may include a number of people who have no insurance for a brief period of time while between jobs. We also know from the state's data that over 240,000 of those uninsureds have incomes greater than $30,000. Thus, while 8 in 10 uninsureds say they cannot afford health insurance, one suspects that a large number of those can't afford it because they would rather have a newer car or better place to live.

Which begs the question: should taxpayers be required to subsidize those decisions? Many people also lack healthcare coverage through their employers because they choose to work for themselves or would rather work for a small company. There are good reasons for making those decisions, but should taxpayers subsidize them? The governor emphasized that no income tax would be required to pay for the program, but said that an increase in cigarette taxes may be required. While many who oppose the income tax could favor an increase in Tennessee's low cigarette taxes, the following might be considered:

Because tobacco usage is higher among the poor, taxes on them come disproportionately from the lower classes. As 42% of the uninsureds in Tennessee make over $30,000 per year, and as the program also helps small businesses that don't offer health insurance to retain employees, taxing cigarettes to pay for this health coverage amounts to a transfer of wealth from the poor to the middle class.

In fact, if this is enacted, two of the most costly functions of the state -- health care and higher education -- will be funded through revenue streams derived disproportionately from the lower class -- cigarette taxes and the lottery, respectively.

The governor should be credited for making a creative proposal, and this bit of sniping is not intended to demean that. However, there is much left to consider. Let the debates begin.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Need for Real Immigration Reform

For a series of short summaries of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s positions on immigration issues, see here. The Chamber believes that Congress needs to pass significant reforms. They point out that the current system not only is inadequate to meet the nation’s needs, but it also actually has the perverse effect of encouraging illegal immigration.

Though the Republican Party is generally considered to be more “pro-business” than the Democrats, the Chamber’s position that immigration laws should be streamlined so that needed workers can enter the country is at odds with the positions of many Republicans. Indeed, this is not an issue that divides neatly along party lines. The hard right wing of the Republican Party and the labor union faction of the Democrats stand together against this sort of immigration reform. Locally, Nathan Moore’s advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform got him labeled a liberal. Mr. Moore responded that he is a liberal in the classical sense. That neither Mr. Moore, the U.S. Chamber, nor the Monroe Doctrine blog are typically referenced as raving left-wingers makes evident that this issue does not necessarily follow ideological lines.

However, there remains a question of whether there are enough principled Democrats in Congress to help pass legislation favored by the President but opposed by many Republicans. In a similar position in 1996, Republican congressmen helped President Clinton pass his welfare reform measure.

Throughout American history there has been an ironic undercurrent of opposition to the movement of immigrants into the country. In the 1800’s, this took the form of opposition to the entry of Irish Catholics (because they weren’t Protestants) and people from eastern Europe (who frequently weren’t Protestants and didn’t speak English). In parts of the United States in the late 1800’s, volunteer fire departments were formed by each ethnic group. Hostilities were significant enough that, for example, a Slavic fire department might refuse to help put out a Welsh fire. In the 21st century, most of the opposition relates to Hispanic immigrants, who have brown skin and don’t speak English. I don’t normally make race a central issue in debates, but I remain unconvinced that the opposition would be as intense if a few million white Canadians were slipping into the country.

This opposition has historically been shortsighted. While the entry of non-English speaking people into the country creates a number of social and educational burdens in the short term, historically the children of those immigrants have quickly learned the language. That should continue to be the case unless current travesties in counterproductive bi-lingual education programs undermine it. In the long term, those who came to the United States in search of freedom and opportunity have contributed to enriching both the American economy and culture.

Demographic changes in the United States are creating a need for immigrants. A healthy demographic diagram will take the form of a pyramid, with a large population of pre-schoolers at the base and a small number of centenarians at the top. Over the next 50 years, given present birth rates, the United States will have a demographic chart that looks more like a rectangle narrowing at the top, and in many western nations, the chart will actually widen near the top. Nations with declining and aging populations that require extra services will have declining economies. Already, industries such as construction, restaurants, hotels, and agriculture have a hard time finding employees and are heavily dependent on immigrants who are willing to do the work. In addition, some specialized fields such as mathematics and engineering are dependent on foreign workers due to the lack of qualified American applicants.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty invites the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses to come to our shores. It is gratifying to live in a country with such opportunity as to inspire people around the world to leave their homes behind in order to come here. While we do not need to allow unfettered immigration, there is a need for a policy that will accommodate both those seeking freedom and the economic needs of the United States.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

They Don't Even Say Much in English

An article in this morning's The Tennessean highlights a growing division within the Southern Baptist Convention over the issue of speaking in tongues. The article describes the controversy at one point as one between conservatives and liberals in the denomination, but that is not a fair characterization. Indeed, most of those quoted in the article as taking a position on either side are conservative Baptists. They are just different kinds of conservatives.

Speaking in tongues is historically a practice largely limited to Pentecostal, and later charismatic, churches, but it has been a growing trend among other evangelical groups in recent years. Baptists have traditionally not condoned the practice, and standard biblical interpretation would not favor it (for a good summary of the issue, see J.I. Packer's Keep in Step with the Spirit). However, as modern Baptist worship trends have moved in the direction of less biblical content and more emotionally oriented worship, it is becoming more difficult for Baptist leaders to oppose the practice. In fact, much, if not most, of the music utilized in contemporary style churches is written by charismatics. Much of that music focuses on an emotional response to coming into the presence of God, without any content related to the basis or meaning of coming into his presence.

Indeed, in defending the practice of speaking in tongues and opposing Southern Baptist leadership, Franklin pastor Rick Smith doesn't bother to refer to a biblical basis at all. He only speaks to a need for "diversity."

Southern Baptists sometimes make curious decisions as to what issues they choose to make front and center. Speaking in tongues has become a hobby horse for some that perhaps has been moved in front of other matters of greater significance. The more central issue, in fact, is that Baptist -- and much of evangelical -- piety is increasingly distanced from bibilical moorings. Anymore, it is more or less every man -- or woman -- for himself. What passes for worship is merely a different variety of "if it feels good, do it."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dirty Tricks

In a story that has garnered far too little national attention, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staffer Lauren B. Weiner has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge after stealing the identity of Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele and obtaining a credit report on him. Mr. Steele is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Ed Morrissey supplies additional analysis here.

Protesters, Right and Wrong

Critics will have a field day with the inanities associated with the nationwide protests organized in opposition to congressional action against illegal immigration, and there is, in fact, a great deal of inanity involved. The protesters are concerned that legislation that has passed in the House of Representatives would make illegal immigration a felony. As illegal immigration is already, well, illegal, I can only assume that making it a felony will amount to an upgrade.

Even so, it should be acknowledged that the real problem with regard to this issue continues to be the failure of the United States to adopt a reasonable and sensible immigration policy. This is exemplified by the above referenced legislation. Those who are particularly concerned about illegal immigration frequently cite concerns over national security: terrorists can enter through our porous borders. Partly in response to that concern, the legislation would build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. However, for someone wanting to enter the country in order to commit criminal acts, the Canadian border is far less secure than the one along the Rio Grande. No one is proposing to build thousands of miles of wall between the U.S. and Canada; nor are they suggesting walling us off from the oceans.

Some of the opposition to immigration is pure jingoism, and those on both the hard right and the far left who cater to it should be ashamed of themselves. That being said, there is no doubt that the flood of illegals does pose a security risk and creates a myriad of other social problems. These problems are compounded by the fact that legal immigration into the United States is made difficult by floods of red tape and other forms of ineptitude. The U.S. labor market needs large numbers of immigrants to come into the country. U.S. policy and practice needs to accommodate that need. It currently does not.

The House bill will not pass in the Senate, and if it did it might force the President to finally wield his veto pen. Democrats, who have already shown with regard to the ports deal that they are not beyond appeals to bigotry in order to gain a political advantage, will make hay over his doing so. Even so, leadership on both sides of the aisle have an obligation to develop a sound and reasonable immigration policy.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Criminalizing Jesus

Conservative columnists and bloggers are making much of Hillary Clinton's assertion that an immigration bill that has passed in the House of Representatives would "literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself.” Ms. Clinton, who is occasionally portrayed by her friends as a life-long committed Methodist zealous of good works, thus identifies herself as one of many Americans who use the term "literally" to describe something they don't conceive of as literal. There are so many things in that single portion of a sentence that would be ridiculed if said by, for example George Bush or Dan Quayle, that it boggles the mind.

Anyone who criticizes Ms. Clinton for appropriating Jesus on an issue on which He never is known to have stated an opinion -- illegal immigration -- will likely be reminded that conservatives are sometimes guilty of the same thing. Recognizing that to be true, we might respond that, in fact, by bringing religion into the discussion in this manner, Ms. Clinton is emulating some of the very worst rhetorical behaviors of the religious right.

The idea of deciding how one should behave by asking "what would Jesus do?" was commonly taught to children and youth groups in the 1970's and 80's. Sometime since then, clever marketers have successfully brought the idea into the common culture.

For Christians, the Bible contains much that can inform one's perspective on public policy debates. For a non-controversial example, one can easily point to the faith statements of many of those who led the civil rights movement in the 1950's and 1960's. Biblical statementsaverringg the value of all human beings in the eyes of a God who is gathering a people from all peoples and nations provided ballast to assertions of civil rights. Biblical notions, correctly applied, can valuably inform both private decisions and public policy.

That being said, there is much about public life to which the Bible does not speak clearly. The Bible has something clear to say about whether homosexuality is a sin, but it has nothing to say about whether gays should serve in the military. Similarly, the Bible has nothing to say about the appropriateness of driving SUV's or about appropriate levels of taxation. Certainly, there are principles of justice and mercy, right and wrong, that can inform a person in deciding where they stand on all of those issues; however, people should be cautious about claiming God to be on their side on an issue on which God has not spoken.

At worst, such claims falter into the categories of self-worship and idolatry. The third commandment, forbids the creation of images and calling them God. That can include mental images. Making God out to be merely a reflection of our own beliefs is self-delusional and idolatrous.

On immigration itself, Jesus, and the biblical writers, conveyed ideas of justice and mercy that could be applicable to this debate. Indeed, the Old Testament Law and Prophets, more than the Gospels, spoke passionately about the mandate to treat foreigners compassionately in Israel. All of those thoughts may inform a Christian's political perspective, but they are not decisive in the current situation. A Christian may seek to arrive at positions consistent with his faith, but he should be cautious about claiming that those positions reflect the beliefs or actions of the Son of God.

Study Bias on Facetious Friday

A new study published in the March 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that female mice prefer males who are already attached to another female mouse, according to a Fox News report.

There is no word as to whether the researchers were all male. Probably married or otherwise attached grad students. Could fantasy take the guise of scientific research?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Glass Half Full

Jonathon Last notes that the United States faces some problems related to immigration, but he puts those problems in perspective:

That's not nothing, but, still, it could be much, much worse. Demographers note what are called channels of migrations, meaning that particular groups of people tend to migrate to particular destinations for an array of logistical, cultural and social reasons. America gets Hispanics. Europe gets Arab and African Muslims. According to Robert Leiken, the director of the Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center, Muslims comprise "the bulk of immigrants in countries such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain." The numbers are comparable across the rest of Western Europe, too.

And unlike America's Hispanic immigrants, many Muslim immigrants in Europe have conflicted feelings about the underpinnings of Western liberalism. In France, there are car burnings and clashes about laïcité; in Holland, Islamist immigrants have been making death threats against politicians and public figures; in Denmark, Muslims are unhappy with the idea of a free press; in Sweden, where T-shirts proclaiming "2030--then we take over" have become popular with Muslim youths, authorities are struggling to deal with the rise of honor killings.

In America, we have fights over bilingual education.

Read the rest here.

Not for Amateurs

An activist group representing disabled persons that attempted to gain attention to its cause by using wheel chair bound people to block downtown Nashville traffic is now complaining that Tennesseans care more about traffic than disabled people, The Tennessean reports. Unfortunately the group misses the point. There is not a lack of caring for the disabled. The public simply has a lack of patience for tactics that are disruptive and that are not commensurate with the problem being addressed.

The group's spokesmen deny that they are professional protesters. As for the organizers, that is certainly true. Their leadership was clearly amateurish.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Vocal but Doubting Helen Thomas

Glen Dean posted some unflattering comments and an even more unflattering, but not inaccurate, picture related to Helen Thomas' questioning of President Bush at yesterday's press conference. Mr. Dean's remarks have generated considerable discussion both at his blog and at Nashville Is Talking.

Whatever Ms. Thomas once was, and I am too young -- I am middle aged -- to remember her as anything other than other than a venerable windbag, she clearly no longer displays the skills of a reporter gathering information for a story. A good interviewer asks questions designed to elicit responses that are newsworthy. Reporters who have not learned this skill or who have become frustrated with the ability of some to avoid responding in newsworthy ways instead focus on injecting themselves into a contrived story or on playing a game of "gotcha" with the interviewee.

For this reason, interviews conducted by talking heads such as Sean Hannitty are nearly worthless in terms of producing new information. And for this reason, Ms. Thomas should never again be recognized by anyone conducting a Washington press conference.